Tag Archives: historical fiction

Pretty Witty Nell: Our Lady of Laughter

Nell by Lauren Wilhelm

 

Of a great heroine I mean to tell,

And by what just degrees her titles swell,

To Mrs Nelly grown, from cinder Nell.

~ Anonymous: A Panegyric on Mrs Nelly (17th century)

There’s something about Nelly …. For centuries, Nell Gwynne has captured hearts and minds. What was Nell Gwynne’s secret? She was a woman who knew how to laugh. How to live. How to love. As an historical fiction/romance fan, I’ve always adored her. When I decided to take up my own quill and start writing fiction, I planned to write a version of her secret diary. For a couple of years I had a wonderful time playing with Nell, collected and read many books, and tracked down obscure historical sources. I then discovered there has been a Nell Gwynne boom – and a raft of novels had been written in celebrating her.  Instead of adding my own version, I moved on to writing other books. Little did I know that my husband was about to surprise me with a birthday gift of a specially commissioned portrait of Nell, painted by artist Lauren Wilhelm (photograph above). Now Nell lights up the stairwell in our home, and guides me upstairs to write.

If you don’t know her name, Nell’s is a real life Cinderella tale of 17th century England, of a low born ‘orange girl’ who became a famous actress and mistress to King Charles II.  We don’t know much about her; mainly that she captivated the King and theatre audiences with her wit. “What history and tradition tell us of Nell Gwyn has been told as a decorative romance, where no liberty has been taken with what we know or believe to be the truth,” wrote Marjorie Bowen in 1925.  “Fancy has been allowed to enlarge upon it … None of the details, however, outrage history or defy probability…” Even in the prim and proper 19th century, in the Victorian era, Nell remained beloved. A 1901 biography dubbed her ‘Our Lady of Laughter.’

MistressMy historical romance PLAYING THE DUKE’S MISTRESS (published by Harlequin, May 2016) is dedicated to Nell Gwynne. It is set in mid-Victorian London, when many actresses had to contend with being seen as title-hunters and gold-diggers – as Darius Carlyle, the Duke of Albury initially suspects actress Calista Fairmont to be. Yet not every actress wants a coronet …I do hope Nell approves!

 

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Meet Nell and some other authors who love her on my Pretty Witty Nell Pinterest Page. nell books

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cameo Portrait: Enticing Benedict Cole

CAMEO newsletter

An artist, a lady, a secret passion… 

When Benedict Cole shuns her request for painting lessons, Lady “Cameo” Catherine Mary St. Clair takes matters into her own hands. She arrives at Benedict’s studio, only to be mistaken for a model! It’s an opportunity she just can’t turn down…

Benedict knows better than to let intimacy interfere with his work, yet he can’t quell his fascination for the mysterious Cameo. And after one daring night together, everything changes. Will Cameo still be his muse when Benedict discovers who she really is?’

The heroine of Enticing Benedict Cole is Cameo. It really is a girl’s name. A cameo is a small carving in relief of a semi-precious stone. The lighter-coloured layer is chipped away to reveal a darker background. In the 19th century, when this story is set, cameo jewellery was popularised by Queen Victoria. At that time small cameo portraits were often painted of well-to-do young women to adorn jewellery, for a keepsake, or to give to a lover. The word cameo has an original Greek meaning of ‘shadow portrait’ – which became part of the story.

Enticing Benedict Cole cover

I collected quite a few cameos while writing the book, as you’ll see on my ‘Cameo Appearance’ Pinterest board. Any excuse will do – right?

Visit Eliza Redgold at Harlequin Mills and Boon for a free extract of Enticing Benedict Cole.

Best wishes,

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A Grace for Books: Mindful Reading

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Why have we no grace for books, those spiritual repasts – a grace before Milton – a grace before Shakespeare – a devotional exercise proper to be said before reading the Faeire Queen?‘ ~ Charles Lamb

Of late I’ve been thinking about how we read. It has changed so much in the last decade, with e-books and reading on line. We still read (maybe even more than before) but we read differently (though many noblewomen in the past read romance and books on spirituality and self-development just like we do today!)

Historically, noblewomen used Books of Hours, beautiful books of prayers, to mark their time. Richly illuminated with pictures of saints, Bible stories, and even signs of the Zodiac, they were sometimes encrusted with jewels. Some called girdle books were small enough to be hung from the waist. Books of Hours contained a calendar, gospel lessons, psalms and special prayers to be said at certain hours of the day: Prime (6am, or upon waking) Terce (9am) Sext (midday) None (3pm) Vespers (6pm) and Compline (9pm, or upon retiring).

The illustration above is taken from a fifteenth century Book of Hours. She is Virgo (my star sign).  I’m going to try the custom of marking my time with a Book of Hours by doing some daily devotional reading.

If you want to join me, here’s how:

Select your own Book of Hours: a prayer book, a hymnal, a spiritual text, a day book, or even a book of poetry. From this book, choose a short quotation, text or excerpt to use as a daily devotional reading (it only needs to be a few lines long). Or you can simply open your chosen book by chance and read the first section you see. Read your quotation in the morning and again at night. Try this for about a month for the most benefit. If you skip a day, just go back to it the next.

Alternatively, try the traditional marking of hours, reading a short text or quotation from your chosen Book of Hours, on the hour, every hour, for a whole day. (We check our phones that often, so why not try this instead!) It might sound arduous, but is found to be relaxing. Build this into a regular practice, or use it as a meditative technique to slow you down when you are feeling particularly rushed or overwhelmed.

Marking time with a devotional reading only takes a moment as the clock strikes, but it creates an entirely different sense of time and increases our mindfulness. Our days will feel very different when we mark the golden hours.

Wishing you blessed reading,

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In Love with the Pre-Raphaelites

'Marigolds' or The Gardener's Daughter Rosetti

‘Marigolds’ or The Gardener’s Daughter by Dante Gabriel Rosetti was an inspiration for my Harlequin Historical romance ‘Enticing Benedict Cole’.

The beautiful, romantic Pre-Raphaelite paintings are some of the most familiar artworks in the world. During the 19th century, the art and love lives of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, a group of brilliant, free thinking young men, were considered scandalous. Their artistic milieu was in complete contrast with the strict conventions of the Victorian upper classes who lived in a controlled, stifling world, and they were often trapped and unhappy. It would have been considered unthinkable for an aristocratic young lady to want to pursue art seriously, and even more unthinkable to be an artist’s model. That’s the dream of Lady Cameo St Clair, the heroine of my Victorian romance Enticing Benedict Cole. Her story celebrates every woman who ever challenged convention for the sake of art, and for the sake of love. It is published by Harlequin Historical.

Another Lady who is capturing the imagination of readers is Lady Godiva! THANK YOU to all the readers who have read and reviewed Naked: A Novel of Lady Godiva.  Her story deserved to be written – and I’m so glad it is being read!

Collier

The famous image used for the cover of NAKED: A Novel of Lady Godiva was painted by John Collier in the Pre-Raphaelite style (1898).

If you’d enjoy more Pre-Raphaelite Beauty visit my Pinterest page

Best wishes,

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Eliza Redgold Romances

UK Cover Enticing Benedict Cole

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Time Lady: Inspiration from the Past

Looking for Lady Godiva

Which historical time period would you like to have lived in? The time periods we are drawn to can inspire and teach us a lot about what we seek in life. Two of my favourite historical eras are the Middle Ages and the nineteenth century. In spite of the challenges many women faced, these were also times of female power surges.  In the Middle Ages women played a leading role in the creation of courtly love and romance – an inheritance we can still cherish today. In the Victorian era women began the inspiring movement  that became known as the suffragettes. Whenever I feel challenged, I revisit those eras and try to channel some of the passion and gumption of the amazing women of the past.

In July 2015 NAKED: A Novel of Lady Godiva released. Godiva certainly was an amazing woman as well as a legend.  A few years back when I visited Coventry, the English home of Godiva, I took a photo of the plaque below. It still gives me shivers.  It reads: ‘A Benedictine Abbey was built on the same ground by Leofric, Earl of Mercia and his Countess Godiva. Leofric and Godiva are said to have been buried respectively in the two porches which stood near this spot.’ It was here I became convinced of their true love and wrote NAKED. You can read my travel piece Two Times a Lady (featuring the image pictured above by Igor Saktor) or find out more in my recent interview in The Coventry Observer.

Travel back in history and find your own ‘Time Lady’ – I promise you will be inspired!

Godiva and Leofric at rest in Coventry

Best wishes,

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Wild Horses

wooden horsesOf late I’ve been writing about wild rides. 2014 was the Chinese Year of the Horse and it certainly was for me! Perhaps it was auspicious I happened to be in Singapore to celebrate Chinese New Year. I saw these amazing wooden horses at Garden by the Bay in Singapore.

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In 2014 I learned to horse-ride. I’d love to report that I became a brilliant horsewoman overnight, like my heroine Godiva, but I got worse instead of better. I learned at an extraordinary therapeutic riding center that has lessons for young and old, able-bodied and disabled riders alike. Some of the people I met were absolutely inspiring. I learned some life lessons – not just riding lessons.

In the nakedYear of the Horse NAKED: A Novel of Lady Godiva (she of the famous naked ride) was accepted by St Martin’s Press, New York and will be released this July. The year of the horse was magic for me – I hope it was for you too!

Here’s Wild Horses a song I listened to while writing Godiva’s story.

I wonder what 2015, the Chinese Year of the (Green Wood) Sheep will bring? Wishing you every joy and the best of luck,

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 desk charmsMy desk charms –  Good luck to you!